Sunday, March 23, 2008

Musical Calling

Music has always been a part of cellist Wang Jian's life.

His father was a cellist and began teaching him when he was four-years-old, by giving him a violin with a pin at the bottom.

Wang Jian's musical talents soon led him to study at the Shanghai Conservatory when he was nine-years-old.

As a child he was smaller than the others and at times would play "incorrectly".

"I was small for my age, and it took me more physical effort to play the cello," he says, having to shift his position to compensate. "But I wanted to make the sound that was in my head, and I didn't care how I did it."

It was a year later when he was noticed by violin virtuoso Isaac Stern who made his Oscar-winning documentary "From Mao to Mozart" in 1979.

"I had no idea who he was, but I was happy that he kept yelling, 'Bravo, bravo', after I played," recalled Wang. "He kept in touch with me until his death [in 2001]."

Stern encouraged the young boy and helped pave the way for him to go to the United States a few years later. He studied under Aldo Parisot who also taught Ralph Kirschbaum.

Since then Wang has played all over the world and so when he was playing in Beijing, I had to go check him out.

Tonight he performed at the Concert Hall in the National Grand Theater. It's a nice, relatively intimate space with good acoustics. However the seating leaves hardly any leg room and I'm only 5' 2".

Wang was decked out in a tuxedo complete with tails and promptly launched into a program that was reflective. First up was Franz Schubert's Sonata for cello and piano in A minor "Appeggione". This followed with Shostakovich's Sonata for cello and piano in D minor.

After a brief intermission he performed Franck's Sonata for cello and piano in A major, whose last movement was very memorable. This was my first cello concert and Wang made the instrument a soulful one, and very expressive.

He also played two encores, one of which was JS Bach's Ave Maria that was so delicate and serene except it was partially ruined by a woman taking cellophane off a CD she bought during intermission.

Wang is only in his late 30s and hopefully his repertoire will expand to showcase his fantastic skills as a cellist and artist.

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